DuClaw’s Strategy Shifts for an Evolving Business Climate

The past 18 months have been significant for DuClaw,​ admits Marketing Director ​Madeline Caldwell. A new look, new brands, and new series have awoken the veteran Baltimore brewery and helped grow its business.

That’s tough to do for an older brewery that sees new competition daily.

​Along with experimenting with oat milk​, the brewery has found some successful lines with its rotating PastryArchy Stouts and Sour Me line.

​”It’s pretty simple, really,” Caldwell said. “We rebranded for a cleaner look and feel.

“One of our values is to welcome all into craft, so approachability was important as we considered the direction.”

That meant letting go of some brands that had resonated for 20-plus years with its audience in order to make room for newer brands with high-performance potential.

​It’s translated as ​DuClaw beer sales ​are up 14% in 2019 from 2018​, Caldwell noted.​ Since closing its brewpubs in 2017, DuClaw doesn’t have a public taproom, so consumers are purchasing brands both on and off-premise in 19 states, DC, Canada and France.

​”Fundamentally, we are the same company,” she said. “‘Craft Be Cherished. Rules Be Damned’ remains our motto — we like to push boundaries and take risks at the chance of greatness.”

DuClaw released its first 16oz premium can format in 2017, and started the current tick of releasing a new PastryArchy Stout, Sour Me brand and a Double IPA every eight weeks in 2018.

“The 16oz can format and riskier flavors and package designs was what was working in the market, and still is for us,” Caldwell said.

Seeing the trend in 2018 toward ‘regular beers,’ and developing the Lager, Regular Beer, was a first step.

“It’s creating a solid beer one day, and a solid beer with glitter the next, and bringing it back the next year with no shame, while strategically driving enough buzz (with a Lizzo-inspired photoshoot of our people in a bathtub full of cereal no less) before pre-orders to make 28 batches in Year Two,” Caldwell said.

She also thinks​ the biggest driver of change and recent growth, however, has been the mindset of ​its employees already in-house.

“In looking at our brand evolution, interestingly, our lead designer Tyler McCoy has been with us for nearly six years​,” Caldwell pointed out​.​”​ We didn’t have someone new come in and design differently. Our people rose to the challenge.​”​

Vice President Elizabeth Hanfman has been with the company for more than 20 years, starting out as a server back when ​DuClaw had brewpubs.

​Caldwell credits o​t​her key hires​, ​like Chris Wood​ as​ director of operations​ and ​James Bartolomeo​ as​ packaging manager​ as newer catalysts.

​”​Our people at all levels have a willingness and interest in evolving and growing ourselves, as a way to make the brand and each other better​,” Caldwell said. “This means leaving egos at the door and supporting each other. And that growth mindset, that openness to new people, ideas, methods, ingredients, designs, even glitter ​(ha!)​ is a big part of our culture.​”​

​That means having a true, real relationship and collaboration between production, marketing, and sales.

​”​It’s ideation and strategy among teams, trusting our people and going with gut instincts​,” Caldwell said​. ​”​We have a diverse team, and everyone has a voice. That is important to us.​”​

​She shared that recently the brewery started a “Cheers for Peers” practice.

It’s a little box where an employee can write something nice about a peer who has gone above and beyond in some way. One person is chosen to get a small gift card each month.

“The response from our team has been amazing — people enjoy building each other up,” Caldwell said. “It’s clearly not about the reward; it’s about supporting each other doing good work and being good people, and working hard for the DuClaw brand.”

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